Marshall, renowned among guitarists for its amplifiers and effects, has ventured into mainstream consumer electronics, including headphones and Bluetooth speakers. Their latest offering, the Marshall Motif II ANC headphones, promises live sound quality, extended battery life, and competitive features compared to other market-leading earbuds like the Apple AirPods 3 or the Audio-Technica ATH-CKS50TW. In this comprehensive review, we’ll explore their design, functionality, and sound performance.
Continuity in Design
The Marshall Motif II ANC headphones maintain a design continuity with their predecessors, the Marshall Motif ANC. These earbuds feature a plastic build with a metallic stem-like component resembling a mini potentiometer. A notable design change is the gold-tipped microphone attachment. While the headphones’ build quality isn’t subpar, a comparison with the AirPods 2 or 3 reveals some awkward texture transitions, giving them a slightly less premium appearance.
The Motif II ANC headphones are in-ear and come equipped with rubber tips, with three different sizes provided to accommodate various ear shapes. The ease of changing the tips ensures a comfortable fit for most users, although individuals with exceptionally small ear canals may need to exercise caution. These headphones also carry an IPX5 certification, offering protection against rain, though not submersion.
Accessories and Controls
Marshall includes several accessories with the Motif II ANC, such as the rubber tips, a textured transport and charging case similar in size to AirPods, a short USB-C to USB-A charging cable (approximately 20 centimeters in length), and minimalistic instructions.
Comprehensive Controls via the App
Pairing the headphones is straightforward and quick. They establish a Bluetooth 5.2 connection with compatible systems, offering a range of around 10 meters. While Marshall claims compatibility with Bluetooth LE Audio for improved battery life, current devices like the iPhone 14 and Pixel 7 do not support this feature.
The Marshall Bluetooth app enhances functionality, offering battery status indicators for each earbud and the case, multiple control modes (ANC, Transparency, and Normal), an equalizer with presets and personalized settings, touch control customization, automatic playback options, and a battery manager. Notably, the app allows you to eliminate the sounds produced by the Motif II ANC during various actions, a convenient feature for users who find these sounds bothersome.
Touch Controls with a Minor Issue
While touch controls are convenient, they occasionally activate prematurely when the earbuds are not correctly positioned. This can lead to unintentional actions like starting playback or skipping tracks while adjusting the headphones. However, once positioned correctly, the touch controls function well, offering various actions through simple, double, and long presses on either earbud.
Sound Quality and ANC Performance
The Motif II ANC headphones claim to offer live concert-quality sound. However, their sound performance leaves much to be desired. With ANC or Transparency modes enabled, they provide bass-rich audio with highlighted kick drums and bass. Unfortunately, the mids and highs lack coherence, leading to uneven sound reproduction with certain frequencies disproportionately louder than others. The resulting audio quality is often unpleasant and inconsistent across different music genres.
Switching to normal mode further exacerbates the problem, as the headphones lose bass significantly, leaving the audio without depth and richness. The lack of bass fundamentally undermines the listening experience, making music less engaging.
Call Quality and Noise Cancellation
In terms of call quality, the Motif II ANC headphones capture voices with an unexpected bass emphasis. While this adds a level of intelligibility, it lacks precision in the higher frequencies. However, they handle background noise relatively well, with minimal interference from a fan or ambient voices.
The active noise cancellation (ANC) and Transparency modes, unfortunately, underperform. ANC primarily alters the sound reproduction of the headphones without providing significant noise reduction. Even in noisy environments, the Motif II ANC fails to deliver the expected attenuation of surrounding sounds. The Transparency mode introduces treble frequencies from external microphones but introduces a noticeable hiss that renders the feature impractical and unpleasant.
Battery Life and Charging
Marshall claims a battery life of 6 hours for the earbuds alone, but in practice, they last around 3 hours with ANC at 50%. The included case provides two additional charges, bringing the total listening time to approximately 10 hours at maximum volume. While this battery life is suitable for daily use during commutes, it falls short compared to competitors.
Charging the case takes just over 1.5 hours using a 5V/1A (5W) USB charger, with the earbuds gaining around 20 minutes of battery life in the first 3 minutes of charging. Fully charging the earbuds takes roughly 1.5 hours. The case supports wireless charging with Qi-standard compatibility.
Price and Conclusion
The Marshall Motif II ANC headphones are priced at €199 and are available in a single black color option. While Marshall’s reputation in the music industry is solid, these headphones fall short of expectations, particularly in sound quality and noise cancellation performance. With competitive options available in the market, users seeking premium audio quality and effective ANC may want to explore alternative offerings.